Creating a startup really is like having a child, major commitment. Unfortunately we often don’t put enough time into it.
This is fine for some businesses because the customer touch points are pre-loaded e.g. a link in an email or search engine advertisement. So the customer doesn’t need to know how to spell or pronounce it. But these businesses are limited.
Usually we want the name to become a brand, because brands have power and value in and of themselves generated by the values they stand for.
Generally, you can choose any name and instill the values/attributes into the brand (e.g trustworthy, reliable, premium, cheap, retail, wholesale, simple, sophisticated). This takes time and is best done by doing (e.g. products, people) and by communication (PR, advertising).
A good name can become more, it can become a name, a visual identity, a multi-channel anchor that provides consistency to the business regardless of where stakeholders encounter it online and offline.
My suggestions are –
1. Keep it short. People are more likely to be able to read it and remember it. Recall is often based on shape of letters and associated pronunciation. It is also more efficient with space when doing advertising via any channel. You will type/say/write your brand name many times over the life of your business, so will your customers, staff etc so do everyone a favour. Keep it simple and short.
2. Pass the crowded bar test. If people are talking to each other and shout your name over the top of loud music and others hear it will be be clear, unique and memorable enough? See at blue monkey bar later then Tom. Ciao.
3. Street Cred. Regardless of which streets you hang out it, you need your name to be mildly appropriate. A new political party is unlikely to be called purple cow but that was the name of a geek book on standing out. The most important part of this step is it forces you to think in tangible terms where people hang out, especially the people you would like to target. Remember you are thinking about all stakeholders here, not just customers but staff, partners, suppliers, investors even regulators and community.
4. Stand Out. Line up your competitors and work out how you are different, by product and positioning and brand. Names that are higher in the alphabet, better/unique colour/shape are good examples. It might be something channel specific like a ring tone or a video pre-post roll.
5. Be Unique. Pick something that you can own across all channels. Get the dot com, the twitter id, the facebook page name and as many derivatives you can expect to need to industry specific channels (e.g. Angel List or F6S or Pinterest or Dribbble).
6. Use Plain Language. Doing this helps trust. It also usually helps with the crowded bar test and the likelihood of people being able to spell or google you. This often clashes with the need to be unique or to do name hacks in order to find a unique dot com, if you are not sure test it with your audience.
7. Try to finish hard. A CEO of a bank I used to work for often ran marathons, while staying the course on brand is essential (communicate consistently and often and don’t stop) there is also a subtle thing about language we agreed on. Finish with a hard syllable and people find it easier to hear and recall. Finish and start with soft syllables and you will find stakeholders constantly asking you to repeat or spell stuff over the phone or in person.
8. Picture It. Get a good visual identity. I like Design Crowd and Freelancer cause they are both from Sydney and globally successful. 99 Designs from Melbourne is also very big.
This is the end of part one of a very big topic. More soon.